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Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini needs far more than home comfort

By Steven Beacom

The Manchester City project. Remember all the talk about that? Of course you do, when big money players arrived at the Ethiad Stadium saying they had joined a ‘project' rather than a football club.

It felt wrong, much like around the same time when Jedward were allowed to stay in The X-Factor by Simon Cowell, but you found yourself reluctantly accepting the modern world of commercialism over class.

It was back in 2008 that Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed took ownership of the blue half of Manchester.

Six years and well over a billion pounds later, the project continues for the outfit once labelled ‘noisy neighbours' by Sir Alex Ferguson.

They have roared to some memorable successes, but as you can see below there remains much to achieve.

Stage 1: Make City a force in England. Check.

Stage 2: Make City champions of England. Check.

Stage 3: Make City a force in Europe.

Stage 4: Make City champions of Europe.

Stage 5: Make City the dominant club side in the world.

At home they have proved up to the task, winning the Premier League twice in the past three seasons.

Domestic bliss is wonderful, and given all the garbage the loyal City supporters have had to put up with over the years, including dropping down to the third tier of English football in the late 90s, they deserve it more than most, but if the mission is to be completely accomplished there must be major improvements abroad.

And there must be Champions League glory.

That means reaching the final and winning it, not just getting out of their group as they did for the first time in three attempts last season.

After last night's agonising 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich, however, there is no guarantee of City making it to the knockout phase this time, with Roma, 5-1 winners at home to CSKA Moscow, confident that they, and not Manuel Pellegrini's men, will join the Germans in the last 16 from Group E.

Some might say City were unfortunate to lose late on to Jerome Boateng's strike deflected into the net by Germany's World Cup final hero Mario Gotze in the Allianz Arena after producing a stout rearguard action, led superbly by goalkeeper Joe Hart, but in many ways the outcome showed the English champions remain second class citizens at this level behind titans like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern.

In big Champions League games, the big Champions League teams get the job done.

Bottom line... City didn't see this one through.

They have to learn to do that in Europe or they’ll never reach stage three of the project, let alone get close to four and five.

Of course winning this tournament is more difficult than any other trophy in football.

Ask Sir Alex Ferguson. Many would have you believe he's the greatest manager of all time, yet in 27 years at the sporting giant that is Manchester United he only lifted it twice.

Over the next quarter of a century, City's project demands they do better than that.

Pellegrini's men may have battled hard in Munich, but being game losers is no longer what the club is about.

They left that behind when Sheikh Mansour arrived.

Belfast Telegraph


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